Today: February 24, 2024

Great Directors

Anyone who wants to make to make films but can’t afford the
massive expense of going to film school, for years there have been DVDs
filled with informative extras on the filmmaking process. Not all DVDs,
of course, are filled with the gems needed to inspire and inform the
novice filmmaker, but these are often studio films made by directors for
hire with little creative vision, who simply spout PR-controlled
platitudes. What you need are the auteurs, the rebels, the independent
filmmakers with their own cinematic vision that is not dictated by
fashion, popular taste and the interests of the studio’s bottom lines.

Even the directors who put in the extra effort on their DVD extras,
such as Darren Aranofsky, David Fincher or David Cronenburg, will often
limit the comments to the specific film in question and won’t speak
about filmmaking in general or what inspired them. New York filmmaker
Angela Ismailos has interviewed some of the most iconic and influential
auteurs from both sides of the Atlantic for her documentary simple
entitled Great Directors. The list is by no means definitive, and the
three previously mentioned are not there, neither is the prolific Werner
Herzog, who is worthy of a film of his own, given his knowledge and
opinions of cinema. Nevertheless, the list of interviewees is still
impressive: Bertolucci, Frears, Loach, Haynes, Linklater, Lynch, Sayles,
Cavani (Nightporter), Varda and Breillat.

The interviews are intercut with clips from their best known films
and are placed in context with era in which they were made as the
directors speak about the films and how the films came into being and
what influenced them at the time. With such a diverse range of
filmmakers from different generations and countries, we certainly get a
broad view what it is to be an auteur, although I doubt if many of them
would appreciate that label, as they would prefer to be known simply as
artists. It could be director Ismailos’s personal preferences, but there
does not appear to be an even distribution of screen time among the
directors, and we see very little of Linklater and Sayles, both of whom
are very interesting, intelligent and articulate filmmakers with a lot
to say about independent cinema, and both with a great body of work
behind them. There is a bit too much of Lynch and his intellectual
ramblings, although he does have plenty of fans. In fact, one of Lynch’s
fans has recently made a very interesting documentary about him called
David Wants to Fly, which is doing the festival circuit at the moment.

While it is an interesting documentary with some of the masters of
cinema it does feel like the director has missed a trick by not getting
them to talk more about the filmmaking process and their methodology
rather than recounting anecdotes. Or is it because directors are natural
storytellers, and there is no real tangible technique to directing (as
many directors will reluctantly divulge) that the instructional part is
missing?

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